On the Errors of Polytheism and Monadic Monotheism

Contradict

                               Contradict

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

“Neither Greek nor Jew.” This refers to a difference, or more properly a contradiction, in opinions about God. The Greek notion foolishly introduces a multiplicity of principles and divides the single principle into contrary energies and forces. It fashions a polytheist cult which becomes factious by reason of the multitude of its objects and ludicrous because of the various ways of veneration. The Jewish notion introduces a single principle but one which is petty and imperfect, almost impersonal as deprived of reason and life. Through opposite ways it results in the same evil as the first notion, a disbelief in the true God. It limits to a single person the one principle which would subsist without the Word and the Spirit, or which would be qualified by the Word and the Spirit. It does not see what God would be if He had no part with the Word and Spirit, nor how He would be God in having part with them as if they were accidents, by a participation close to that of rational beings subject to generation. In Christ, as I have said, there is none of these things, but only the reality of genuine piety, a steadfast law of mystical theology which rejects any expansion of the divinity as the first notion does, while not allowing any contraction as does the second. Thus there is no dissension by a plurality of natures, the Greek error, nor an affirmation of the oneness of hypostasis, the Jewish error, because being deprived of the Word and the Spirit or qualified by the Word and the Spirit, God is not honored as Mind, Word, and Spirit. This teaches us, who have been introduced to the perfect knowledge of truth by a calling of grace in faith, to recognize that the nature and the power of the divinity is one, and therefore that there is one God contemplated in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

…In this way polytheism is not introduced by division, nor atheism by confusion. By avoiding both, the understanding of God in the light of Christ shines forth. I call Christ’s understanding the new proclamation of truth… “neither Jew nor Greek,” that is, no conception opposed to God; “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision,” that is, no different religions issued from these opposed conceptions… Both of these together end up at the same evil, insolence against God. (Commentary on the Our Father)

On Personalist Theology and the Primus

image from newromepress.com

image from newromepress.com

Protopresbyter Michael Azkoul

I have no doubt that Patriarch Bartholomew acts with the greatest hope and sincerity for Christian unity, as every Christian should… He thinks of himself as a “bridge-builder,” aiming at union or harmony between Orthodoxy and the other Christian confessions. The Orthodox Church, again, seeks Christian unity, and it prays for it; however, it seeks unity in the Orthodox Faith, to which Faith it calls all confessions.

The Œcumenical Patriarch, it seems to me, comes to his view of the Church, in part, by way of believing himself competent to play this unitive role. No doubt reinforced by his education in the West—largely in Rome, in fact—he learned to place inordinate value on the human personality, embracing the principles of the philosophy of Personalism. Personalists have called for the reconstruction of the social order, so that the sanctity of human life and the dignity of each person might be foremost in our personal lives and in our social and, more specically, religious outlook. Strongly attracted to the precepts of Personalism, the Patriarch made it part of his new ecclesiological vision. Its ideas enable him, in the religious domain, to compare the human person to “the Supreme Person (Being)” and, thereby, to transcend the differences between men and between religions. Personalism promotes universal brotherhood, with all that this implies, and not individualism, which it equates with self-centeredness and solipsism. He links this brotherhood with the Church, since the Church aims at the restoration of the divine image in humanity, which Adam shattered by his disobedience, as St. Athanasius said.

It may be that, given his penchant for the Personalist worldview, the Patriarch follows Nicholas Berdyaev. “Personality,” the latter said, “is the moral principle, and our relation to all other values is determined by reference to it. Hence the idea of Personality lies at the basis of ethics…. Personality is a higher state than the value of the state, the nation, mankind or nature [1], and indeed is not part of that series.” While studying in Geneva, His All-Holiness met the famous Greek ecumenist, Nikos Nissiotis, who also instructed him in Personalism and its “new horizons”. It becomes clearer why the Patriarch no longer feels compelled to consider as final and unchangeable the Orthodox form of the Christian Faith. Personalism, since it rejects individualism, tears down Orthodox exclusivism, downplaying differences of every kind and honoring human agency in what are actually matters of divine prerogative. I have no way of knowing the depth to which this philosophy has penetrated the Patriarch’s soul, but it is not a jump in logic to think that Personalism directly influenced his diminution of Orthodox exclusivism and his loyalty to ecumenism and his own personal ecclesiological views—a loyalty which, not so incidentally, is inevitably and tragically leading to a schism in the Orthodox Church. (“The Ecclesiology of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople”. Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XXXII Number 3, 2105, p. 7-8)

Note: the lengthy excerpt below is an example of personalism and its theological consequences.

Fr. John Panteleimon Manoussakis

The phenomenon of anti-papism, understood as the denial of a primus for the universal church and the elevation of such denial to a trait that allegedly identifies the whole Orthodox Church, is, properly speaking, heretical.

In saying this, I am returning the favor, so to speak, to all those who have taken upon themselves the onerous task of defending Orthodoxy against all kinds of heresy. And heresy is all they see. Any difference, not necessarily in matters of dogma but also in liturgy, in language, in vestments, in appearance, is immediately and solemnly denounced as heresy.

Anticipating the reaction of some who may find such a statement dangerous and inflammatory, I wonder if it is possible that anti-papism could be confused with Orthodoxy. And if there is such a possibility, is it not all the more necessary and urgent that we speak against such a false identification, distinguishing the Church to which we belong and which we serve— I speak here as an Orthodox clergyman— from that party that has constructed for itself a new identity exclusively based on the hatred for the office of Peter?

Nevertheless, the phenomenon of anti-papism has become increasingly more observable within the Orthodox Church. Those who want to elevate their dislike for the Pope into a definition for the Orthodox Church as a whole do not realize that, if they were right, their version of the Church would be reduced to little more than a religious club that can trace its origins to no earlier than the schism of 1054— a club that would owe its raison d’être entirely to the very opponent that it opposes.

…When I was a seminarian in Athens, I was taught that, unlike the Roman Church, the highest authority in the Orthodox Church— the one authority with absolute power to decide dogmatic and canonical matters— is an interpersonal (and thus impersonal) body: the Ecumenical Council.  By asserting such a claim, the Orthodox present a not-so-implicit critique against papal primacy, which is often caricatured as a centralized, imperialistic, and therefore totalitarian and oppressive ecclesiology. In opposition to such a structure, the Orthodox take pride in what they consider a more democratic structure. They give, however, little or no thought to the fact that the synod as a manifold body presupposes the office of the One— that is, the one primus who, although inter pares as far as his sacramental faculty is concerned, remains nevertheless unequal in his primacy. Similarly, the patriarch or the metropolitan is also inter pares with the bishops who are administratively under him; yet, as the 34th Apostolic Canon makes clear, the synod cannot do anything without his consent. As the bishop is also inter pares with all baptized Christians, he is one of them every time he officiates— an ecclesiological truth signified by the white sticharion (the equivalent of the alb) that the bishop, like all clerics, wears as the first piece of his liturgical vestments. And yet, despite the fact that he is inter pares with the faithful (cum fidelibus), the local church cannot do anything without him, nor would they even exist as a community…

There is no either/ or distinction between conciliarity and primacy. No council is conceivable without a primus. Philosophically speaking, the emphasis on primacy conforms with the idea that the “one” (in this case, the primus) is both logically, ontologically, and “chronologically” prior to the “many” (the synod). There is another reason why the Ecumenical Council cannot be considered an institution of authority for the Church— without, of course, meaning to say that Ecumenical Councils have no authority. The weight of the argument here falls not so much on authority but on the concept of the institution. An institution (θεσμός) implies both permanence and regularity, two basic characteristics lacking from the convocation of an Ecumenical Council that has more of the character of an event (extraordinary in nature) than that of a standing institution.

…In Christian theology the principle of unity is always a person. This simple truth can be attested on the Trinitarian, the christological, and the ecclesiological level, demonstrating, incidentally, the interrelated nature of these three branches of theology. The mystery of the Holy Trinity places in front of us, in an eminent way, the problematic of the dialectic between the one and the many, unity and difference, communion and otherness. It is well known that what safeguards the oneness of God and prevents faith in the Holy Trinity from lapsing into tritheism is the person of the Father…

Therefore, the monarchy of the Father not make us fear that the person of the Father is overemphasized at the expense, perhaps, of the Trinitarian communion. Rather, it is that person, or more accurately, the personal character, that safeguards the homoousian community of the Holy Trinity. In a similar vein, the christological debates, which began in the fifth century, sought, again, to come to terms with the distinction between the one and the many. Here, of course, the many are the two natures of Christ, which became a cause of puzzlement, for the difficulty was the simultaneous affirmation of the perfect divinity and perfect humanity of Christ, on the one hand, and of the fact that Christ was one, on the other. Again, the principle of unity, a unity “without division” and “without confusion,” as the definition of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon puts it, is safeguarded and upheld by a person— namely, the Person of the Incarnate Logos. My argument is that there must be a consistency between these dogmatic claims and our ecclesiological model, if we do not wish to divorce ecclesiology from theology. Ecclesiologically too, then, the principle of unity for all and each of the three levels of ecclesial structure must be a person, a primus. Here, I invoke the unambiguous witness of the Metropolitan Elpidophoros (Lambriniadis) of Bursa, who, as the Chief-Secretary of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, delivered an important speech at the Chapel of the Holy Cross Theological School in Brookline, saying the following:

“Let me add that the refusal to recognize primacy within the Orthodox Church, a primacy that necessarily cannot but be embodied by a primus (that is by a bishop who has the prerogative of being the first among his fellow bishops) constitutes nothing less than heresy. It cannot be accepted, as often it is said, that unity among the Orthodox Churches is safeguarded either by a common norm of faith and worship or by the Ecumenical Council as an institution. Both of these factors are impersonal while in our Orthodox theology the principle of unity is always a person. Indeed, in the level of the Holy Trinity the principle of unity is not the divine essence but the Person of the Father (“ Monarchy” of the Father), at the ecclesiological level of the local Church the principle of unity is not the presbyterium or the common worship of the Christians but the person of the Bishop, so too in the Pan-Orthodox level the principle of unity cannot be an idea or an institution but it needs to be, if we are to be consistent with our theology, a person.” [2]

…The history of the first millennium leaves no room for doubting that the pope’s primacy in terms of such Petrine ministry was universally acknowledged and accepted even by the Greek-speaking Church. Theologically, there is no reason why the Orthodox Church should not do the same presently. The history of Orthodoxy’s Balkanization and the present state of its diaspora make it difficult to deny that the consequences of the heresy of anti-papism— that is, the denial of a personal primacy in the universal church— have historically been linked to racism, which was condemned as a heresy in 1872 under the name of ethnophyletism. Here, racism is treated as a heresy because it ascribes the role of primacy to the nation, the “ethnos.” Thus, it commits a grave abuse of the theological principle we have described above, by substituting the person of the primus with the impersonal collectivity of the nation, sacrificing the particular for the universal. Racism invests a penultimate category— that of race or language— with the authority of the ultimate, ignoring that such categories will be eschatologically overcome, as the experience of Pentecost both promises and anticipates. By doing so, national churches preclude the eschatological vision of the gospel by realizing it in the present through a form of confessional or ethnic triumphalism. But, at the same time, we also have the phenomenon of the self-proclaimed “guardians of Orthodoxy,” who, implicitly and illicitly, assert themselves and their criteria for Orthodoxy over the entire church, as a type of primatial vision that supplants the legitimate structures of the Church (i.e., the bishop). By entrusting the ministry of primacy to a person, the Church defends herself against the insidious danger of idolatry. Idolatry is endemic to ideology. It elevates theories, concepts, or structures (no matter how benign or well-intended) to a normative status in the Church, which, in effect, establishes ideologies. I say that with respect to those who might prefer to see in the structure of the Church a democracy that would emphasize equality among the faithful, understanding the Church primarily as a community of equal members that “co-celebrate” the Eucharist. Such views are open and susceptible to idolization. On the other hand, the person of the bishop, in his concreteness and not in spite of his shortcomings and failures but precisely on account of them, offers himself as an antidote to idolatry insofar as his humanity cannot but subject him to a process of demystification that would be difficult, if not impossible, to be exercised with respect to a fleshless, impersonal construction.

…In the foregoing part of this chapter we had the opportunity to discuss the need for primacy in the Church in general. Our discussion demonstrated, to the best of our abilities, that such a primacy is required by the very structure of the Church’s ecclesiology and that, furthermore, it is a prerequisite necessitated by the Church’s theology. It was that same theology that gave us the insight to primacy’s personal character insofar as it can be exercised only by a person. That person is, in principle, the bishop of Rome. Yet the separation of the two churches has meant, first and foremost, that the Orthodox churches have been deprived of the benefits embodied in such a personal primacy. One might have expected that, in the absence of the Roman primacy, the see that follows after the elder Rome in the taxis of the pentarchy ought to have been given the ministry of primacy within the Orthodox Church. That is, primacy ought to be exercised by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the New Rome, and more specifically in the person of the patriarch of Constantinople. In fact, the ancient appellation of Constantinople as New Rome would have assumed on this occasion a quasi-prophetic meaning, as it would have anticipated that this church was destined to become the Rome for the Eastern churches in the event that the communion with the elder Rome were to be severed [3].

…In the debate over primacy the Orthodox can feel the need to unite with Rome in its most palpable and tragic urgency— yet, without the recognition of some primacy within the Orthodox Church, the Orthdox cannot reach out to Rome, nor could Rome reach out to the Orthodox Church. In one of those ironic turns of history, it is only Rome that can help the Orthodox communion overcome its own internal divisions. The possibility of a schism among the various Orthodox churches looms as real today as ever over any reconciliatory effort with the Catholic Church; furthermore, it taints and undermines Orthodoxy’s witness to the world and remains a danger to the Orthodox Church’s well-being, like a ticking time bomb placed at its foundations. (For the Unity of All: Contributions to the Theological Dialogue between East and West, Foreword by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. [Kindle Locations 744-1011]. Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition)

Note: footnotes below not included in original works.

[1] Chrysostom Koutloumousianos: “Consider the idea (promulgated in some present day theological circles) that personhood is your very being, and this very being is not a part of your nature but is a gift granted by the Other, a human Other, whose ‘personal’ love offers you your identity. Indeed, there cannot be a more subtle and devious subversion of the sense of connectedness, mutuality, freedom, and even democracy. Perhaps the most challenging part of this understanding is its application in ecclesiology. By giving so much emphasis to the role of a hierarchical ‘first’, the person who supposedly stands in the place of the Father, we create totalitarian models of Church and society in which the institution—here primacy—becomes the intermediary that connects man with God… Metropolitan John [Zizoulas] has been the most passionate proponent of this personalistic position. His Trinitarian personalism has led to what one might call ‘episcopomonism’ and a new appreciation of the idea of primacy.

[2] The two quotes below demonstrate views in opposition to Met. Elpidophoros:

Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasio: “In Orthodox patristic theology it is clear that the mystery of the Holy Trinity is one thing, which we will never understand, and the doctrine of the mystery of the Holy Trinity, which the Fathers expressed after having experienced Revelation, is another thing. As well, the relationship of the Persons of the Holy Trinity moves on one level, while the relationships of human hypostases/persons are on another level. There are no analogies between God and man, because then we end up in metaphysics, which the Fathers so opposed. Moreover there are patristic texts and synodical decisions, as we see for example in the Synodikon of Orthodoxy, where metaphysics is condemned, since it claims that parallels and analogies exist between the uncreated and the created.”

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk: “It was argued that the Holy Trinity is an image of both primacy and conciliarity, since there is in it the monarchy of God the Father, but also the communion of the three divine Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Some theologians went so far as to insist that there is ‘hierarchy’ among the three Persons, having found support in passages from St Basil the Great who speaks of a taxis (order) in the Trinity. It was claimed that this ordering, or hierarchy, should be reflected in the administrative structure of the Church at the three levels: local, regional, and universal…

Some argued, on the basis of this Trinitarian glorification, that the administrative structure of the Church on the regional level also reflects (or should reflect) the communion between the divine Persons of the Trinity. The text of the canon [Apostolic Canon 34], however, does not in fact permit such a comparison: rather, it is the ‘consent’, or harmony, that reigns between the three Hypostases of the Trinity which is cited here as an example which the bishops on the regional level should follow. With regard to the Trinitarian glorification itself, it is similar to many such glorifications that conclude canonical, dogmatic and liturgical texts, and was certainly not meant to draw any direct comparison between the Hypostases of the Holy Trinity and the ranks in church order… The synodality or conciliarity that exists in the Church and has its particular expression in the institution of synods or councils may indeed be compared with the harmony and concord reigning among the Persons of the Trinity. One should not, however, go any further than that by attempting to compare human ecclesial structures with the divine Trinitarian communion. Neither is it appropriate to interpret interrelationships between primacy and synodality in the Church by using Trinitarian analogies and, thereby, to refer to the ‘primacy’ of the Father with regard to the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Primacy and Synodality from an Orthodox Perspective)

[3] Met. Hilarious of Volokolamsk: This statement has been contested by some Orthodox theologians who refer to the fact that the 28th [Canon] of Chalcedon, on which the primacy of the Patriarch of Constantinople has been based, does not speak about him as ‘second after’ the Bishop of Rome: rather, it acknowledges him as ‘equal’ to the latter. Was there, then, some kind of double primacy in the Universal Church of the first millenium, with one pope for the West and one for the East? Byzantine sources speak rather of a pentarchy, a concept officially endorsed by Emperor Justinian and, according to which, the whole oecumene is divided into five patriarchates whose rights and privileges are equivalent. This equality was expressed at the Ecumenical Councils in various ways: how discussions were held, how decisions were taken, how decrees were signed. (ibid.)

On Baptism and the Holy Spirit

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

For as the faith in the Triad, which has been delivered to us, joins us to God; and as he who takes anything away from the Triad, and is baptized in the name of the Father alone, or in the name of the Son alone, or in the Father and the Son without the Holy Spirit, receives nothing, but remains ineffective and uninitiated, both himself and he who is supposed to initiate him (for the rite of initiation is in the Triad); so he who divides the Son from the Father, or who reduces the Spirit to the level of the creatures, has neither the Son nor the Father, but is without God, worse than an unbeliever, and anything rather than a Christian. And justly so. For as baptism, which is given in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is one; and as there is one faith in the Triad (as the Apostle said); so the holy Triad, being identical with Itself and united within Itself, has in It nothing which belongs to things originate. This is the indivisible unity of the Triad; and faith therein is one. But if, from the new discovery you Tropici have made, it is not so; if you have dreamed dreams of calling the Holy Spirit a creature — then you no longer have one faith and one baptism, but two, one in the Father and the Son, another in an angel who is a creature. There is no security or truth left you. For what communion can there be between that which is originate and that which creates ? What unity between the lower creatures and the Word who created them? Knowing this, the blessed Paul does not divide the Triad as you do; but, teaching Its unity, when he wrote to the Corinthians concerning things spiritual, he finds the source of all things in one God, the Father, saying: ‘There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are diversities of ministrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of workings, but the same God who worketh all things in all.’ The gifts which the Spirit divides to each are bestowed from the Father through the Word. (Letters to Serration, Epistle 1.30)

On the Holy Spirit in Holy Scripture

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

But, he says, who in ancient or modern times ever worshipped the Spirit? Who ever prayed to Him? Where is it written that we ought to worship Him, or to pray to Him, and whence have you derived this tenet of yours? We will give the more perfect reason hereafter, when we discuss the question of the unwritten; for the present it will suffice to say that it is the Spirit in Whom we worship, and in Whom we pray. For Scripture says, God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth. And again,—We know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; and I will pray with the Spirit and I will pray with the understanding also; —that is, in the mind and in the Spirit. Therefore to adore or to pray to the Spirit seems to me to be simply Himself offering prayer or adoration to Himself…

Over and over again you turn upon us the silence of Scripture. But that it is not a strange doctrine, nor an afterthought, but acknowledged and plainly set forth both by the ancients and many of our own day, is already demonstrated by many persons who have treated of this subject, and who have handled the Holy Scriptures, not with indifference or as a mere pastime, but have gone beneath the letter and looked into the inner meaning, and have been deemed worthy to see the hidden beauty, and have been irradiated by the light of knowledge…Since, then, there is so much difference in terms and things, why are you such a slave to the letter, and a partisan of the Jewish wisdom, and a follower of syllables at the expense of facts?

The New manifested the Son, and suggested the Deity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit Himself dwells among us, and supplies us with a clearer demonstration of Himself. For it was not safe, when the Godhead of the Father was not yet acknowledged, plainly to proclaim the Son; nor when that of the Son was not yet received to burden us further (if I may use so bold an expression) with the Holy Ghost; lest perhaps people might, like men loaded with food beyond their strength, and presenting eyes as yet too weak to bear it to the sun’s light, risk the loss even of that which was within the reach of their powers; but that by gradual additions, and, as David says, Goings up, and advances and progress from glory to glory, the Light of the Trinity might shine upon the more illuminated. For this reason it was, I think, that He gradually came to dwell in the Disciples, measuring Himself out to them according to their capacity to receive Him, at the beginning of the Gospel, after the Passion, after the Ascension, making perfect their powers, being breathed upon them, and appearing in fiery tongues. And indeed it is little by little that He is declared by Jesus, as you will learn for yourself if you will read more carefully. I will ask the Father, He says, and He will send you another Comforter, even the spirit of Truth. This He said that He might not seem to be a rival God, or to make His discourses to them by another authority. Again, He shall send Him, but it is in My Name. He leaves out the I will ask, but He keeps the Shall send, then again, I will send,—His own dignity. Then shall come, the authority of the Spirit.

You see lights breaking upon us, gradually; and the order of Theology, which it is better for us to keep, neither proclaiming things too suddenly, nor yet keeping them hidden to the end. For the former course would be unscientific, the latter atheistical; and the former would be calculated to startle outsiders, the latter to alienate our own people…

This, then, is my position with regard to these things, and I hope it may be always my position, and that of whosoever is dear to me; to worship God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, Three Persons, One Godhead, undivided in honour and glory and substance and kingdom, as one of our own inspired philosophers not long departed showed. Let him not see the rising of the Morning Star, as Scripture says, nor the glory of its brightness, who is otherwise minded, or who follows the temper of the times, at one time being of one mind and of another at another time, and thinking unsoundly in the highest matters. For if He is not to be worshipped, how can He deify me by Baptism? But if He is to be worshipped, surely He is an Object of adoration, and if an Object of adoration He must be God; the one is linked to the other, a truly golden and saving chain. And indeed from the Spirit comes our New Birth, and from the New Birth our new creation, and from the new creation our deeper knowledge of the dignity of Him from Whom it is derived.

This, then, is what may be said by one who admits the silence of Scripture. But now the swarm of testimonies shall burst upon you from which the Deity of the Holy Ghost shall be shown to all who are not excessively stupid, or else altogether enemies to the Spirit, to be most clearly recognized in Scripture. Look at these facts:—Christ is born; the Spirit is His Forerunner. He is baptized; the Spirit bears witness. He is tempted; the Spirit leads Him up. He works miracles; the Spirit accompanies them. He ascends; the Spirit takes His place. What great things are there in the idea of God which are not in His power? What titles which belong to God are not applied to Him, except only Unbegotten and Begotten? For it was needful that the distinctive properties of the Father and the Son should remain peculiar to Them, lest there should be confusion in the Godhead Which brings all things, even disorder itself, into due arrangement and good order. Indeed I tremble when I think of the abundance of the titles, and how many Names they outrage who fall foul of the Spirit. He is called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Mind of Christ, the Spirit of The Lord, and Himself The Lord, the Spirit of Adoption, of Truth, of Liberty; the Spirit of Wisdom, of Understanding, of Counsel, of Might, of Knowledge, of Godliness, of the Fear of God. For He is the Maker of all these, filling all with His Essence, containing all things, filling the world in His Essence, yet incapable of being comprehended in His power by the world; good, upright, princely, by nature not by adoption; sanctifying, not sanctified; measuring, not measured; shared, not sharing; filling, not filled; containing, not contained; inherited, glorified, reckoned with the Father and the Son; held out as a threat; the Finger of God; fire like God; to manifest, as I take it, His consubstantiality); the Creator-Spirit, Who by Baptism and by Resurrection creates anew; the Spirit That knows all things, That teaches, That blows where and to what extent He lists; That guides, talks, sends forth, separates, is angry or tempted; That reveals, illumines, quickens, or rather is the very Light and Life; That makes Temples; That deifies; That perfects so as even to anticipate Baptism, yet after Baptism to be sought as a separate gift; That does all things that God does; divided into fiery tongues; dividing gifts; making Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers; understanding manifold, clear, piercing, undefiled, unhindered, which is the same thing as Most wise and varied in His actions; and making all things clear and plain; and of independent power, unchangeable, Almighty, all-seeing, penetrating all spirits that are intelligent, pure, most subtle (the Angel Hosts I think); and also all prophetic spirits and apostolic in the same manner and not in the same places; for they lived in different places; thus showing that He is uncircumscript.

They who say and teach these things, and moreover call Him another Paraclete in the sense of another God, who know that blasphemy against Him alone cannot be forgiven, and who branded with such fearful infamy Ananias and Sapphira for having lied to the Holy Ghost, what do you think of these men? Do they proclaim the Spirit God, or something else? Now really, you must be extraordinarily dull and far from the Spirit if you have any doubt about this and need some one to teach you. So important then, and so vivid are His Names. Why is it necessary to lay before you the testimony contained in the very words? And whatever in this case also is said in more lowly fashion, as that He is Given, Sent, Divided; that He is the Gift, the Bounty, the Inspiration, the Promise, the Intercession for us, and, not to go into any further detail, any other expressions of the sort, is to be referred to the First Cause, that it may be shown from Whom He is, and that men may not in heathen fashion admit Three Principles. For it is equally impious to confuse the Persons with the Sabellians, or to divide the Natures with the Arians. (Oration 31.12, 21, 26-30)

On the Divine Counsel and the Raising of Lazarus

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

In the beginning when man was to be formed, there was a Counsel beforehand. So now also, in the case of Lazarus, when a man was to be formed anew, there was a Counsel first. When man was to be created the Father said to the Son, “Let us make man” (Gen. 1:26), the Son listened to the Father, and man was brought into being. Now, by contrast, the Father listened to the Son speaking, and Lazarus was brought to life.  Notice that the Father and the Son are of equal honor and have the same will. The words are not in the form of prayer but of lordship and absolute authority. (Homily Fifteen, On Palm Sunday)

On the Dikerion and the Trikerion

Met. Hilarion of Volokolamsk

Special items of the hierarchical service are the dikerion and the trikerion. These are two hand-held, ornamental candlesticks in which two (dikerion) or three (trikerion) candles are placed. The use of the dikerion and trikerion at the patriarchal liturgy began in the twelfth century. [1] Originally these candlesticks were ascribed only to kings and patriarchs (and not to all bishops) as they were perceived as attributes reflecting the dignity of teaching. This is mentioned in the twelfth century by Theodore Balsamon, the patriarch of Antioch, who insisted that the right to bless the faithful with candlesticks belonged to kings, patriarchs, autocephalous archbishops of Bulgaria and Cyprus, and also a few metropolitans to whom the kings had given this right. [2]

Later the dikerion and trikerion came to be used by all hierarchs at church services. The trikerion is interpreted symbolically as an indication of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, while dikerion indicates the two natures of Jesus Christ. [3] Candles placed in the trikerion and dikerion may be connected at the top in such a way that a single flame is formed. A more common style has crossing candles whose top ends are directed in different directions. [4]

[1] Jacob, “Le chandelier a trois branches de l’eveque Pantoleon: A propos de l’inscription de Geroges de Gallipoli,” Bolletino della Badia greca di Grottaferata 53 (1999), 187-199.

[2]Theodore Balsamon Reflections, PG 138, 1016D-11017C.

[3]Simeon of Thessalonica Concerning the Holy Temple 59, 61. PG 155, 721BC.

[4] Deacon Mikhail Zheltov, “Dikirion” in Orthodox Encyclopedia, vol. 14, 693.

St. Gregory Palamas on Islam

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

It is true that Mohammed started from the east and came to the west, as the sun travels from the east unto the west. Nevertheless, he came with war, knives, pillaging, forced enslavement, murders, and acts that are not from the good God, but instigated by the chief manslayer, the devil. Consider now, in times past, did not Alexander (the Great) prove victorious from the east to the west? There have also been many others, in many other times, who set out on military campaigns and dominated the world. Yet none of the peoples believed in their leaders as you revere Mohammed. Though Mohammed may employ violence and offer pleasures, he cannot secure the approval of the world. Albeit, the teaching of Christ, though it turns away from (worldly) pleasures, it has taken hold to the ends of the world, without violence, since it is opposed to it. This phenomenon is the victory that overcomes the world (1 Jn. 5:4).

 

http://www.scribd.com/doc/32990227/Saint-Gregory-Palamas-on-Islam-compiled-by-Holy-Apostles-Convent#scribd

On the Full Knowledge of God

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

For my part, I will naturally grieve and weep at the breaking up of my own members, my own race, of brothers according to flesh and spirit, because we who have put on Christ through baptism account the Mysteries of Christ as nothing. We think we will receive the full knowledge of God’s truth by means of worldly wisdom, and fancy that this mere reading of the God-inspired writings of the Saints is to comprehend Orthodoxy, and that this is an exact and certain knowledge of the Holy Trinity… For no one is able to think or speak properly about what concerns the Holy Trinity from just reading the Scriptures. One instead accepts it by faith alone, abides with what has been written, and does not dabble with anything more. As for those who are curious and dare to meddle cheerfully with divine things, [they should understand that] it is not possible to say anything at all outside of what has been written and taught by the Fathers. (The Ethical Discourses: Ninth Ethical Discourse)

On Icons of the Trinity

Great Council of Moscow 1666-1667

We decree that a skilled painter, who is also a good man (from the ranks of the clergy) be named monitor of the iconographers, their leader and supervisor. Let the ignorant not mock the ugly and badly painted icons of Christ, of His Mother, His Saints. Let all vanity of pretended wisdom cease, which has allowed everyone habitually to paint the Lord Sabaoth in various representations according to his own fantasy, without an authentic reference… We decree that from now on the image of the Lord Sabaoth will no longer be painted according to senseless and unsuitable imaginings, for no one has ever seen the Lord Sabaoth (that is, God the Father) in the flesh. Only Christ was seen in the flesh, and in this way He is portrayed, that is, in the flesh and not according to His divinity. Likewise, the most Holy Mother of God and other Saints of God…

To paint on icons the Lord Sabaoth (that is, the Father) with a white beard holding the Only-Begotten Son in His lap with a dove between them is altogether absurd and improper, for no one has ever seen the Father in His Divinity. Indeed, the Father has no flesh, and it is not in flesh that the Son was born of the Father before all ages. And if the Prophet David says, ‘from the womb, before the morning star, I have begotten You’ (Ps. 109 [110]:3), such a generation is certainly not corporeal, but unutterable and unimaginable. For Christ Himself says in the Holy Gospel, ‘No one knows the Father except the Son’. In chapter 40, Isaiah asks: ‘What likeness will you find for God or what form to resemble His?’ Likewise, the holy Apostle Paul says in chapter 17 of Acts: ‘Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to believe that the Godhead is the same as gold, silver, or stone shaped by human art and thought.’ St. John of Damascus likewise says: ‘Who can make an imitation of God the invisible, the incorporeal, the indescribable, and unimaginable? To make an image of the Divinity is the height of folly and impiety.’ (On the Heavens, Bk. IV, On the Image) St. Gregory Dialogos forbade in a similar way. This is why the Lord Sabaoth, Who is the Godhead, and the engendering before all ages of the Only-Begotten Son of the Father must only be perceived through our mind. By no means is it proper to paint such images: it is impossible. And the Holy Spirit is not, in His nature a dove: He is by nature God. And no one has ever seen God, as the holy Evangelist points out. Nonetheless, the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of dove at the Holy Baptism of Christ in the Jordan; and this is why it is proper to represent the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, in this context only. Anywhere else, those who have good sense do not represent the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, for on Mount Tabor He appeared in the form of a cloud, and in another way elsewhere. Besides, Sabaoth is not the name of the Father only, but of the Holy Trinity. According to Dionysius the Areopagite, ‘Sabaoth’ is translated from the Hebrew as ‘Lord of Host’. And the Lord of Hosts is the Trinity. And if the Prophet Daniel says that he has seen the Ancient of Days sitting on the throne of judgment, that is not taken to mean the Father, but the Son at His Second Coming, who will judge all nations with his fearsome judgment.

Likewise, on icons of the Holy Annunciation, they paint the Lord Sabaoth breathing from His mouth, and that breath reaches the womb of the Most Holy Mother of God. But who has seen this, or which passage from Holy Scripture bears witness to it? Where is this taken from? Such a practice and others like it are clearly adopted and borrowed from people whose understanding is vain, or rather whose mind is deranged or absent. This is why we decree that henceforth such mistaken painting cease, for it comes from unsound knowledge. It is only in the Apocalyspe of St. John that the Father can be painted with white hair, for lack of any other possibility, because of the visions contained in it.

It is good and proper to place a Cross, that is, the Crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, above the Deisis in the holy churches in the place of Lord Sabaoth, according to the norm preserved since ancient times in all the holy churches of the eastern countries, in Kiev, and everywhere else except in the Muscovite State. This is a great mystery kept by the holy Church…

We say this to shame the iconographers so that they stop making false and vain paintings, and from now on paint nothing according to their own ideas, without an authentic reference. (The Image of God the Father in Orthodox Theology and Iconography and Other Studies by Fr. Steven Bingham pp. 137-139)

Holy Synod of the Russian Church 1722

On the antimensia…, it is strictly forbidden to represent the Lord Sabaoth in the form of an old man, and the holy Evangelists in the form of animals. (ibid., p. 144)

Holy Synod of Constantinople 1776

It has been decreed by the Synod that the icon allegedly of the Trinity is an innovation. It is alien to the apostolic Orthodox Catholic Church and is not accepted by it. It infiltrated the Church through the Latins. (ibid., p. 146)

 

 

 

On the Doxology

St. Nicholas Cabasilas ca. 1323-1391

First of all every holy rite begins with the doxology: “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Intercourse with God consists of thanksgiving, doxology, confession, and petition. The first of these is doxology, because when grateful servants approach their Master it is fitting that they should begin not by pushing their own affairs into the foreground, but should concentrate on those their Master…Thus doxology has first place in any intercourse with God, and it is for this reason that the priest glorifies God before any prayer and sacred homily. But why does he glorify the threefold nature of God and not His unity? For he does not say “Blessed be God” or “Blessed be the Kingdom”, but distinguishes the Persons. “Blessed be the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit.” It is because it was through the Incarnation of the Lord that mankind first learned that God was three Persons, and the mystery which is being performed is centered in the Incarnation of the Lord, so that from the very beginning the Trinity must shine forth and be proclaimed. (A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy)

On Theologizing

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

Not to every one, my friends, does it belong to philosophize about God; not to every one; the Subject is not so cheap and low; and I will add, not before every audience, nor at all times, nor on all points; but on certain occasions, and before certain persons, and within certain limits.

Not to all men, because it is permitted only to those who have been examined, and are passed masters in meditation, and who have been previously purified in soul and body, or at the very least are being purified. For the impure to touch the pure is, we may safely say, not safe, just as it is unsafe to fix weak eyes upon the sun’s rays. And what is the permitted occasion? It is when we are free from all external defilement or disturbance, and when that which rules within us is not confused with vexatious or erring images; like persons mixing up good writing with bad, or filth with the sweet odours of ointments. For it is necessary to be truly at leisure to know God; and when we can get a convenient season, to discern the straight road of the things divine. And who are the permitted persons? They to whom the subject is of real concern, and not they who make it a matter of pleasant gossip, like any other thing, after the races, or the theatre, or a concert, or a dinner, or still lower employments. To such men as these, idle jests and pretty contradictions about these subjects are a part of their amusement.

Next, on what subjects and to what extent may we philosophize? On matters within our reach, and to such an extent as the mental power and grasp of our audience may extend. No further, lest, as excessively loud sounds injure the hearing, or excess of food the body, or, if you will, as excessive burdens beyond the strength injure those who bear them, or excessive rains the earth; so these too, being pressed down and overweighted by the stiffness, if I may use the expression, of the arguments should suffer loss even in respect of the strength they originally possessed.

Now, I am not saying that it is not needful to remember God at all times…I must not be misunderstood, or I shall be having these nimble and quick people down upon me again. For we ought to think of God even more often than we draw our breath; and if the expression is permissible, we ought to do nothing else. Yea, I am one of those who entirely approve that Word which bids us meditate day and night, and tell at eventide and morning and noon day, and praise the Lord at every time; or, to use Moses’ words, whether a man lie down, or rise up, or walk by the way, or whatever else he be doing Deut. 6:7 — and by this recollection we are to be moulded to purity. So that it is not the continual remembrance of God that I would hinder, but only the talking about God; nor even that as in itself wrong, but only when unseasonable; nor all teaching, but only want of moderation. (Oration 27. 3-5)

The Father is Greater Than I

St. Alexander of Alexandria died ca. 326

Concerning whom we thus believe, even as the Apostolic Church believes. In one Father unbegotten, who has from no one the cause of His being, who is unchangeable and immutable, who is always the same, and admits of no increase or diminution; who gave to us the Law, the prophets, and the Gospels; who is Lord of the patriarchs and apostles, and all the saints. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God; not begotten of things which are not, but of Him who is the Father; not in a corporeal manner, by excision or division as Sabellius and Valentinus thought, but in a certain inexplicable and unspeakable manner, according to the words of the prophet cited above: Who shall declare His generation? (Isa. 53:8) Since that His subsistence no nature which is begotten can investigate, even as the Father can be investigated by none; because that the nature of rational beings cannot receive the knowledge of His divine generation by the Father. But men who are moved by the Spirit of truth, have no need to learn these things from me, for in our ears are sounding the words before uttered by Christ on this very thing, No man knows the Father, save the Son; and no man knows who the Son is, save the Father. (Mat. 11:27) That He is equally with the Father unchangeable and immutable, wanting in nothing, and the perfect Son, and like to the Father, we have learned; in this alone is He inferior to the Father, that He is not unbegotten. For He is the very exact image of the Father, and in nothing differing from Him. For it is clear that He is the image fully containing all things by which the greatest similitude is declared, as the Lord Himself has taught us, when He says, My Father is greater than I. (Jn. 14:28)

Therefore to the unbegotten Father, indeed, we ought to preserve His proper dignity, in confessing that no one is the cause of His being; but to the Son must be allotted His fitting honour, in assigning to Him, as we have said, a generation from the Father without beginning, and allotting adoration to Him, so as only piously and properly to use the words, He was, and always, and before all worlds, with respect to Him; by no means rejecting His Godhead, but ascribing to Him a similitude which exactly answers in every respect to the Image and Exemplar of the Father. But we must say that to the Father alone belongs the property of being unbegotten, for the Saviour Himself said, My Father is greater than I. (Epistles on Arianism and the Deposition of Arius: Epistle 1.12)

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

And hence it is that the Son too says not, ‘My Father is better than I Jn. 14:28,’ lest we should conceive Him to be foreign to His Nature, but ‘greater,’ not indeed in greatness, nor in time, but because of His generation from the Father Himself , nay, in saying ‘greater’ He again shows that He is proper to His essence. (Orations Against the Arians Bk. 1.58)

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

As your third point you count the Word Greater; and as your fourth, To My God and your God. And indeed, if He had been called greater, and the word equal had not occurred, this might perhaps have been a point in their favour. But if we find both words clearly used what will these gentlemen have to say? How will it strengthen their argument? How will they reconcile the irreconcilable? For that the same thing should be at once greater than and equal to the same thing is an impossibility; and the evident solution is that the Greater refers to origination, while the Equal belongs to the Nature; and this we acknowledge with much good will. But perhaps some one else will back up our attack on your argument, and assert, that That which is from such a Cause is not inferior to that which has no Cause; for it would share the glory of the Unoriginate, because it is from the Unoriginate. And there is, besides, the Generation, which is to all men a matter so marvellous and of such Majesty. For to say that he is greater than the Son considered as man, is true indeed, but is no great thing. For what marvel is it if God is greater than man? Surely that is enough to say in answer to their talk about Greater. (Oration 30.7)

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

Since the Son’s origin is from the Father, in this respect the Father is greater, as cause and origin. Wherefore also the Lord said thus, “My Father is greater than I,” clearly inasmuch as He is Father. Yea, what else does the word Father signify unless the being cause and origin of that which is begotten of Him? (Basil Against Eunomius)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

If any one say that the Father is greater, inasmuch as He is the cause of the Son, we will not contradict this. But this does not by any means make the Son to be of a different Essence. (Homily 75 On John)

St. Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

Although even God, who has no local bounds to His presence, may depart from the hearts of those who turn away from Him, not with their feet, but their moral character; just as He comes to such as turn to Him, not with their faces, but in faith, and approach Him in the spirit, and not in the flesh. But that they might understand that it was only in respect of His human nature that He said, I go and come to you, He went on to say, If you loved me, you would surely rejoice, because I go unto the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And so, then, in that very respect wherein the Son is not equal to the Father, in that was He to go to the Father, just as from Him is He hereafter to come to judge the quick and the dead: while in so far as the Only-begotten is equal to Him that begot, He never withdraws from the Father; but with Him is everywhere perfectly equal in that Godhead which knows of no local limitations. For being as He was in the form of God, as the apostle says, He thought it not robbery to be equal with God. For how could that nature be robbery, which was His, not by usurpation, but by birth? But He emptied Himself, taking upon Him the form of a servant; Phil. 2:6-7 and so, not losing the former, but assuming the latter, and emptying Himself in that very respect wherein He stood forth before us here in a humbler state than that wherein He still remained with the Father. For there was the accession of a servant-form, with no recession of the divine: in the assumption of the one there was no consumption of the other. In reference to the one He says, The Father is greater than I; but because of the other, I and my Father are one.” (Tractates on the Gospel of John, Tractate 78.1) 

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

And He says that He is greater, not because He sat down on the right hand as God, but as He was still with us, that is, in human shape. For as He still wore the guise of a servant, and the time had not yet come that He should be reinstated, He calls God the Father greater. Moreover, when He endured the precious cross for us, the Jews brought Him vinegar and gall when He was athirst, and when He drank, He said, It is finished. For already the time of His humiliation was fulfilled, and He was crucified as man. He had overcome the power of death, not as man but rather as God, I say by the working of His power and the glory and might of His conquest, not according to the flesh. The Father then is greater since the Son was still a servant and in the world, as He says that He is God of Himself, and adds this attribute to His human form. For if we believe that He degraded and humbled Himself, will it not be obvious to all that He descended from superiority to an inferiority, and rather from equality with the Father to the reverse. The Father underwent nothing of this, and He abode where He was at the beginning. He is greater therefore than He that chose inferiority by His own dispensation, and remained in such a state until He was restored to His ancient condition, I mean His own and natural glory in which He was at the beginning. We may rightly judge that His equality with the Father, which while He might have had it uninterruptedly He did not consider robbery to take for our sake, is His own and natural position. (Commentary on the Gospel of John Bk. 10, Chap. 1)

St. Justinian the Emperor ca. 483-565

But inasmuch as The Lord also said in another Gospel passage, “My Father is greater than me,” (Jn. 14:28) do you think that some man said this of himself, and that it was not the Divine Logos become man who said these things? Is it not clear that He Who said, “My Father is greater than Me,” also said, “I and the Father are one”? (Jn. 10:30) Now in saying, “I and the Father are one,” He reveals the equality He has with the Father according to His divine nature; and in saying, “My Father is greater than Me,” He means that He has become inferior for our sakes according to the Economy. Both the equality and inferiority refer to one and the same [prosopon], our Lord and God Jesus Christ, the Divine Logos Incarnate. (A Letter on the Three Chapters)

 

True Worship is Trinitarian

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

The sublime and worshipful Father is the Father of Truth itself, that is, of the Only-Begotten Son; and the Holy Spirit is a spirit of truth, as the Logos of truth proclaimed (cf. John 14:17). Those who worship the Father ‘in Spirit and in Truth’, and who believe accordingly, are activated by Them. As St. Paul says, ‘It is through the Spirit that we worship and pray’ (cf. Rom: 8:26), while the Only-Begotten Son of God says, ‘No one comes to the Father except through Me’ (John 14:6). Hence those who worship the supreme Father ‘in Spirit and in Truth’ are the true worshippers (John 4:23). (Topics of Natural and Theological Science and on the Moral and Ascetic Life: One Hundred and Fifty Texts, 59)

On Trinitarian Errors

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

For, amid the three infirmities in regard to theology, atheism, Judaism, and polytheism, one of which is patronised by Sabellius the Libyan, another by Arius of Alexandria, and the third by some of the ultra-orthodox among us, what is my position, can I avoid whatever in these three is noxious, and remain within the limits of piety; neither being led astray by the new analysis and synthesis into the atheism of Sabellius, to assert not so much that all are one as that each is nothing, for things which are transferred and pass into each other cease to be that which each one of them is, of that we have an unnaturally compound deity, like those mythical creatures, the subject of a picturesque imagination: nor again, by alleging a plurality of severed natures, according to the well named madness of Arius, becoming involved in a Jewish poverty, and introducing envy into the divine nature, by limiting the Godhead to the Unbegotten One alone, as if afraid that our  God would perish, if He were the Father of a real God of equal nature: nor again, by arraying three principles in opposition to, or in alliance with, each other, introducing the  Gentile plurality of principles from which we have escaped?

It is necessary neither to be so devoted to the Father, as to rob Him of His Fatherhood, for whose Father would He be, if the Son were separated and estranged from Him, by being ranked with the creation, (for an alien being, or one which is combined and confounded with his father, and, for the sense is the same, throws him into confusion, is not a son); nor to be so devoted to Christ, as to neglect to preserve both His Sonship, (for whose son would He be, if His origin were not referred to the Father?) and the rank of the Father as origin, inasmuch as He is the Father and Generator; for He would be the origin of petty and unworthy beings, or rather the term would be used in a petty and unworthy sense, if He were not the origin of Godhead and goodness, which are contemplated in the Son and the Spirit: the former being the Son and the Word, the latter the proceeding and indissoluble Spirit. For both the Unity of the Godhead must be preserved, and the Trinity of Persons confessed, each with His own property. (Oration 2. 37-38)

St. Athanasius on the Trinity and Baptism

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

The faith in the Trinity transmitted to us is the only one, and it unites us with God, and whoever takes something away from the Trinity and baptizes in the name of the Father, or in the Son alone, or into the Father and the Son without the Spirit, receives nothing, but those being baptized and he imagines himself to be giving baptism remain in vanity and unconsecrated, because the Mystery is accomplished in the name of the Trinity: so that whoever seperates the Son from the Father or reduces the Spirit to a creature has neither the Son nor the Father but is an atheist, worse than an unbeliever, and anything but a Christian. (Epistle to Serapion 1.30)

On the Recipient of the Eucharistic Sacrifice

Council of Constantinople 1156

The Life-giving sacrifice has never been offered only to the Father of the Only Begotten Who is the Source of all things, neither when it was first offered by Christ the Saviour, nor at any subsequent time even to the present day. It has always been offered also to the Word, Who became incarnate; and the Holy Spirit is not left out of so divine an honour. The oblation of the Mysteries which is consecrated on each occasion by the power of the Trinity, has been made (and is still made) to the Godhead over all, in the Trinity of Hypostases, which is known to us as united and as one in the same nature, and as co-eternal. (PG 115.140-8.)

The Theotokos and the Confession of Faith

During the time that the heresy of Sabellius and Paul of Samosata began to spread, St Gregory the Wonderworker (ca. 213-270 a.d.) prayed fervently and diligently imploring God and His most pure Mother to reveal to him the true Faith. The All-Holy Virgin Mary appeared to him, radiant like the sun, and with Her was the Apostle John the Theologian dressed in archepiscopal vestments.

By the command of the Mother of God, the Apostle John taught the saint how to correctly and properly confess the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. St Gregory wrote down everything that St John the Theologian revealed to him. The Mystery of the Symbol of the Faith, written down by St Gregory of Neocaesarea, is a great divine revelation in the history of the Church. The teaching about the Holy Trinity in Orthodox Theology is based on it. Subsequently it was used by the holy Fathers of the Church: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and Gregory of Nyssa. The Symbol of St Gregory of Neocaesarea was later examined and affirmed in the year 325 by the First Ecumenical Council, showing his enduring significance for Orthodoxy. Thus, the first recorded vision of the Theotokos in the history of the Church was for the purposes of revealing a trinitarian confession of faith.  St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote St. Gregory’s biography and he records this magnificient event:

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-395

While [Gregory] was passing a sleepless night because of these worries, someone appeared to him in human form, aged in appearance, clothed in garments denoting a sacred dignity, with a face characterized by a sense of grace and virtue. Gregory, looking frightened, rose from his bed and asked him who he was and why he had come.

The other, in a subdued voice, after soothing his distress, told Gregory that he had appeared by divine will, because of the questions that Gregory found ambiguous and confusing, to reveal to him the truth of pious faith. After hearing these words, Gregory regained his serenity and began to observe the other man with a certain joy and wonder.

The other then held up his hand, as if to point out, with his index finger, something that had appeared opposite him. Gregory, turning his gaze in the direction indicated by the other man’s hand, saw before him another figure, which had appeared not long before. This figure had the appearance of a woman, whose noble aspect far surpassed normal human beauty. Gregory was again disturbed. Turning away his face, he averted his glance and was filled with perplexity; nor did he know what to think of this apparition, which he could not bear to look upon with his eyes. For the extraordinary character of the vision lay in this: that though it was a dark night, a light was shining, and so was the figure that had appeared to him, as if a burning lamp had been kindled there.

Although he could not bear to look upon the apparition, Gregory heard the speech of those who had appeared, as they discussed the problems that were troubling him. From their words, Gregory not only obtained an exact understanding of the doctrine of the faith but also was able to discover the names of the two persons who had appeared to him, for they called each other by name.

For it is said that he heard the one who had appeared in womanly form exhorting John the Evangelist to explain to the young man the mystery of the true [faith]. John, in his turn, declared that he was completely willing to please the Mother of the Lord even in this matter and that this was the one thing closest to his heart. And so the discussion coming to a close, and after they had made it quite clear and precise for him, the two disappeared from his sight. (Life of St. Gregory the Wonderworker, PG 46, 909-12)

St. Gregory’s Confession of Faith

There is one God, the Father of the living Word, who is His subsistent Wisdom and Power and Eternal Image: perfect Begetter of the perfect Begotten, Father of the only-begotten Son.

There is one Lord, Only of the Only, God of God, Image and Likeness of Deity, Efficient Word, Wisdom comprehensive of the constitution of all things, and Power formative of the whole creation, true Son of true Father, Invisible of Invisible, and Incorruptible of Incorruptible, and Immortal of Immortal and Eternal of Eternal.

And there is One Holy Spirit, having His subsistence from God, and being made manifest by the Son, to wit to men: Image of the Son, Perfect Image of the Perfect; Life, the Cause of the living; Holy Fount; Sanctity, the Supplier, or Leader, of Sanctification; in whom is manifested God the Father, who is above all and in all, and God the Son, who is through all.

There is a perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty, neither divided nor estranged. Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity; nor anything superinduced, as if at some former period it was non-existent, and at some later period it was introduced. And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abideth ever.

Source for the Confession of Faith: http://www.voskrese.info/spl/thaumcreed.html

St. Cyril on the Essence of God

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

We see many names predicated of God, but none of them seems to indicate what God is according to essence. Rather, they either show what He is not, or they indicate some condition distinct from another. For example, incorruptible and immortal indicate what He is not; but Father or unbegotten, that He is the begetter, which distinguishes Him from the Son, and that He is not produced; but neither of these is indicative of essence, as I said before, but indicates something of what surrounds the essence. (Treasury of the Holy Trinity: Thesis 31)

On the Procession of the Holy Spirit

A certain Uniate priest by the name of John came to doubt the truth of his confession and appealed to Elder Paisius Velichkovsky with the entreaty that he clear up his perplexity. The main part of the Elder’s reply is given here:

The Holy Spirit Himself, Who proceeds from the Father and reposes in the Son, has inspired you by His grace to appeal with this question to a humble and sinful, but Orthodox, son of the Eastern Church…

The first and most important error of the Uniates is the teaching, which they have taken from the Romans, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son [Filioque]. This is the first and most important of all the heresies, for it includes in itself an incorrect judgment, contrary to Sacred Scripture, about God, Who is One in the Holy Trinity. He who confesses that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son supposes in God two principles: one of the Father, another of the Son. But we Orthodox confess in the Trinity one principle of the Father, as our Lord Jesus Christ taught us in the holy Gospel, when He said that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. He said: When the Comforter is come, Whom I send unto you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, Who proceedeth from the Father (Jn. 15:26). And the Apostle says: Every good gift and evry perfect gift is from above, coming from the Father of lights (Jm. 1:17). Do you see? He says “the Father of lights”; that is, the Father is the root and fount of Divinity; and the two lights, the Son and the Spirit from the single light, the Father, have their pre-eternal being, the Son in being begotten and the Holy Spirit in procession.

The divine Prophet David says: By the word of the Lord were the heavens established, and all the might of them by the Spirit of His mouth (Ps. 33:6). Do you see? He calls the Father Lord, but he calls the Son Word, as pre-eternally begotten of Him; and he calls the Holy Spirit of His (and not “Their”) lips, as proceeding from the Father alone. One could search out other testimonies also from the Old and New Testaments, which show more clearly than the sun that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone and reposes in the Son, as was disclosed at the Baptism of the Lord.

Further, all the holy ecumenical teachers who have interpreted the Scripture as if with one mouth say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, and nowhere have they written that he proceeds from the Son also. Thus, if Uniates think exactly like the Romans in such a serious heresy, what hope do they have for salvation, unless they openly renounce this Spirit-fighting heresy and become united again with the Holy Orthodox Eastern Church?

Spare neither property nor relatives if they do not wish to listen to you, but by all means save your own soul from perdition; because there is nothing more needful for you than the soul for which Christ died. But in fleeing, do not look back in your heart for the sake of swiftly perishing possessions; it is better for you to remain in poverty than to blaspheme Him. Depart and flee from the Unia as speedily as possible, lest death overtake you in it and you be numbered among the heretics and not among the Christians. And not only go away yourself, but advise others to go away also, if in your conscience you know that they will hear you. And if they will not hear you, then at least depart yourself from the nets of the enemy and be united in soul and heart with the Holy Orthodox Church, and thus, together with all [the faithful] holding the inviolate faith and fulfilling the commandments of Christ, you will be able to be saved. (The Letters of Elder Paisius from Niamets II: To a Uniate Priest, on the Procession of the Holy Spirit. Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky pp. 200-202)

On Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

St. Anthony the Great ca. 251-356

God is good, dispassionate and immutable. Now someone who thinks it reasonable and true to affirm that God does not change, may well ask how, in that case, it is possible to speak of God as rejoicing over those who are good and showing mercy to those who honor Him, while turning away from the wicked and being angry with sinners. To this it must be answered that God neither rejoices nor grows angry, for to rejoice and to be offended are passions; nor is He won over by the gifts of those who honor Him, for that would mean He is swayed by pleasure. It is not right to imagine that God feels pleasure or displeasure in a human way. He is good, and He only bestows blessings and never does harm, remaining always the same. We men, on the other hand, if we remain good by resembling God we are united to Him; but if we become evil through not resembling God, we are seperated from Him. By living in holiness we cleave to God; but by becoming wicked we make Him our enemy. It is not that He grows angry with us in an arbitrary way, but it is our own sins that prevent God from shining within us, and expose us to demons who punish us. And if through prayer and acts of compassion we gain release from our sins, this does not mean that we have won God over and made Him change, but that through our actions and turning to God we have cured our wickedness and so once more have enjoyment of God’s goodness. Thus to say that God turns away from the wicked is like saying that the sun hides itself from the blind. (Philokalia Vol. 1: On the Character of Men 150)

On The Trisagion

St. Nicholas Cabasilas ca. 1319-1391

The Thrice-holy Hymn has been taken in part from the angels, and in part from Book of Psalms by the Prophet David; it was made into one hymn by the Church of Christ and dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The holy, which is sung three times, belongs to the angels (cf. Isa. 6:3), while God, mighty and immortal come from the blessed David, who says: My soul thirsts for God, the mighty, the living (Ps. 41:3). Our holy church received all this and joined the psalm with the angelic hymn and added the petition, Have mercy on us… in order to show both the harmony of the Old Testament with the New, and that angels and men form one Church and one choir. (Hieromonk Gregorios: The Divine Liturgy, A Commentary in Light of the Fathers pp. 152-153)

On the Sign of the Cross

The venerable Sign of the Cross is an ancient practice utilized by all apostolic churches. It is the “prayer of the hand”, a liturgical action that mystically participates in the reality of the Life-Giving Cross of the Savior. By making use of the sign ancient Christians declared their fidelity to Christ, worked miracles, healed diseases and cast out demons. The Sign proclaims the Orthodox Christian faith and it demonstrates a piety with Christ and His Cross at its center. It is a Tradition of the one Church of Christ and is not to be dismissed or taken as a matter of indifference.
 
Eze 9:4 And the Lord said to him: Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem: and mark Tau upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and mourn for all the abominations that are committed in the midst thereof.
 
Gal 6:14
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.
 
Rev 9:2-4
And he opened the bottomless pit: and the smoke of the pit arose, as the smoke of a great furnace. And the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke of the pit. And from the smoke of the pit there came out locusts upon the earth. And power was given to them, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth nor any green thing nor any tree: but only the men who have not the sign of God on their foreheads.
 
Tertullian ca. 160-220
 
Premising, therefore, and likewise subjoining the fact that Christ suffered, He foretold that His just ones should suffer equally with Him— both the apostles and all the faithful in succession; and He signed them with that very seal of which Ezekiel spoke: The Lord said unto me, Go through the gate, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set the mark Tau upon the foreheads of the men. Now the Greek letter Tau and our own letter T is the very form of the cross, which He predicted would be the sign on our foreheads in the true Catholic Jerusalem, in which, according to the twenty-first Psalm, the brethren of Christ or children of God would ascribe glory to God the Father, in the person of Christ Himself addressing His Father; I will declare Your name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I sing praise unto You…Now, inasmuch as all these things are also found among you, and the sign upon the forehead, and the sacraments of the church, and the offerings of the pure sacrifice, you ought now to burst forth, and declare that the Spirit of the Creator prophesied of your Christ. (Against Marcion, Book III: Chap. 22)
 
At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign. (De Corona 3)
 
St. Hippolytus ca. 170-236
 
But imitate him always, by signing thy forehead sincerely; for this is the sign of his Passion, manifest and approved against the devil if so thou makest it from faith; not that thou mayest appear to men, but knowingly offering it as a shield. For the adversary, seeing a its power coming from the heart, that a man displays the publicly formed image of baptism, is put to flight; not because thou spittest, but because the Spirit in thee breathes him away. When Moses formed it by putting the blood of the Paschal lamb that was slain on the lintel and anointing the side-posts, he signified the faith which now we have in the perfect Lamb. (The Apostolic Tradition 37)
 
Origen ca. 185-254
 
This (the letter Tau) bears a resemblance to the figure of the cross; and this prophecy (Ezek. 9:4) is said to regard the sign made by Christians on the forehead, which all believers make whatsoever work they begin upon, and especially at the beginning of prayers, or of holy readings. ( Select. in Ezek. c. ix)
 
St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258
 
The Lord prophesies that the aliens shall be burnt up and consumed; that is, aliens from the divine race, and the profane, those who are not spiritually new-born, nor made children of God. For that those only can escape who have been new-born and signed with the sign of Christ, God says in another place, when, sending forth His angels to the destruction of the world and the death of the human race, He threatens more terribly in the last time, saying, Go and smite, and let not your eye spare. Have no pity upon old or young, and slay the virgins and the little ones and the women, that they may be utterly destroyed. But touch not any man upon whom is written the mark. Ezekiel 9:5 Moreover, what this mark is, and in what part of the body it is placed, God sets forth in another place, saying, Go through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. Ezekiel 9:4 And that the sign pertains to the passion and blood of Christ, and that whoever is found in this sign is kept safe and unharmed, is also proved by God’s testimony, saying, And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses in which you shall be; and I will see the blood, and will protect you, and the plague of diminution shall not be upon you when I smite the land of Egypt. Exodus 12:13 What previously preceded by a figure in the slain lamb is fulfilled in Christ, the truth which followed afterwards. As, then, when Egypt was smitten, the Jewish people could not escape except by the blood and the sign of the lamb; so also, when the world shall begin to be desolated and smitten, whoever is found in the blood and the sign of Christ alone shall escape. (Treatises V.22)
 
St. Anthony the Great ca. 251-356
 
We Christians therefore hold the mystery not in the wisdom of Greek arguments, but in the power of faith richly supplied to us by God through Jesus Christ. And to show that this statement is true, behold now, without having learned letters, we believe in God, knowing through His works His providence over all things. And to show that our faith is effective, so now we are supported by faith in Christ, but you by professional logomachies. The portents of the idols among you are being done away, but our faith is extending everywhere. You by your arguments and quibbles have converted none from Christianity to Paganism. We, teaching the faith on Christ, expose your superstition, since all recognise that Christ is God and the Son of God. You by your eloquence do not hinder the teaching of Christ. But we by the mention of Christ crucified put all demons to flight, whom you fear as if they were gods. Where the sign of the Cross is , magic is weak and witchcraft has no strength. (St. Athanasius, The Life of St. Anthony, Chap. 78)
 
St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 297-373
 
This, then, after what we have so far said, it is right for you to realize, and to take as the sum of what we have already stated, and to marvel at exceedingly; namely, that since the Saviour has come among us, idolatry not only has no longer increased, but what there was is diminishing and gradually coming to an end: and not only does the wisdom of the Greeks no longer advance, but what there is is now fading away: and demons, so far from cheating any more by illusions and prophecies and magic arts, if they so much as dare to make the attempt, are put to shame by the sign of the Cross. (On the Incarnation of the Word, Chap. 55)
 
St. Ephrem of Syria ca. 306-373
 
“And mark a sign upon the foreheads of the men that sigh”,
(Ezek. 9:4) he says, for the circumcision of the flesh sufficed not unto salvation, and therefore has it been set aside, and the sign of the cross is substituted in its place. (Syr. Comm. in Ezek).

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386
 
Let us, therefore, not be ashamed of the Cross of Christ; but though another hide it, do thou openly seal it upon your forehead, that the devils may behold the royal sign and flee trembling far away. Make then this sign at eating and drinking, at sitting, at lying down, at rising up, at speaking, at walking: in a word, at every act. (Catechetical Lectures 4:14)
 
Let us not then be ashamed to confess the Crucified. Be the Cross our seal made with boldness by our fingers on our brow, and on everything; over the bread we eat, and the cups we drink; in our comings in, and goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we rise up; when we are in the way, and when we are still. Great is that preservative; it is without price, for the sake of the poor; without toil, for the sick; since also its grace is from God. It is the Sign of the faithful, and the dread of devils: for He triumphed over them in it, having made a show of them openly Colossians 2:15; for when they see the Cross they are reminded of the Crucified; they are afraid of Him, who bruised the heads of the dragon. Despise not the Seal, because of the freeness of the gift; out for this the rather honour your Benefactor. (ibid., 13:36)
 
St. Martin of Tours ca. 316-397
 
Now, it came to pass some time after the above, that while Martin was going a journey, he met the body of a certain heathen, which was being carried to the tomb with superstitious funeral rites. Perceiving from a distance the crowd that was approaching, and being ignorant as to what was going on, he stood still for a little while. For there was a distance of nearly half a mile between him and the crowd, so that it was difficult to discover what the spectacle he beheld really was. Nevertheless, because he saw it was a rustic gathering, and when the linen clothes spread over the body were blown about by the action of the wind, he believed that some profane rites of sacrifice were being performed. This thought occurred to him, because it was the custom of the Gallic rustics in their wretched folly to carry about through the fields the images of demons veiled with a white covering. Lifting up, therefore, the sign of the cross opposite to them, he commanded the crowd not to move from the place in which they were, and to set down the burden. Upon this, the miserable creatures might have been seen at first to become stiff like rocks. Next, as they endeavored, with every possible effort, to move forward, but were not able to take a step farther, they began to whirl themselves about in the most ridiculous fashion, until, not able any longer to sustain the weight, they set down the dead body. Thunderstruck, and gazing in bewilderment at each other as not knowing what had happened to them, they remained sunk in silent thought. But when the saintly man discovered that they were simply a band of peasants celebrating funeral rites, and not sacrifices to the gods, again raising his hand, he gave them the power of going away, and of lifting up the body. Thus he both compelled them to stand when he pleased, and permitted them to depart when he thought good. (Sulpitius Severus: Life of St. Martin, Chap. XII)
 
St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389
 
She, (his mother, St. Nonna) who had always been strong and vigorous and free from disease all her life, was herself attacked by sickness. In consequence of much distress, not to prolong my story, caused above all by inability to eat, her life was for many days in danger, and no remedy for the disease could be found. How did God sustain her? Not by raining down manna, as for Israel of old or opening the rock, in order to give drink to His thirsting people, or feasting her by means of ravens, as Elijah or feeding her by a prophet carried through the air, as He did to Daniel when a-hungered in the den. But how? She thought she saw me, who was her favourite, for not even in her dreams did she prefer any other of us, coming up to her suddenly at night, with a basket of pure white loaves, which I blessed and crossed as I was wont to do, and then fed and strengthened her, and she became stronger. The nocturnal vision was a real action. For, in consequence, she became more herself and of better hope, as is manifest by a clear and evident token. Next morning, when I paid her an early visit, I saw at once that she was brighter, and when I asked, as usual, what kind of a night she had passed, and if she wished for anything, she replied, “My child, you most readily and kindly fed me, and then you ask how I am. I am very well and at ease.” Her maids too made signs to me to offer no resistance, and to accept her answer at once, lest she should be thrown back into despondency, if the truth were laid bare. (Oration 18: On the Death of His Father, 30)
 
St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379
 
Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us in a mystery by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay—no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? What writing has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer? Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching. (On the Holy Spirit 27:66)
 
St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-394
 
O Thou Who hast power on earth to forgive sins, forgive me, that I may be refreshed and may be found before Thee when I put off my body, without defilement on my soul. But may my soul be received into Thy hands spotless and undefiled, as an offering before Thee.”
As she said these words she sealed her eyes and mouth and heart with the cross. And gradually her tongue dried up with the fever, she could articulate her words no longer, and her voice died away, and only by the trembling of her lips and the motion of her hands did we recognise that she was praying. (The Life of St. Macrina)
 
St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397
 
Therefore read that the three witnesses in baptism, the water, the blood, and the Spirit, are one, for if you take away one of these, the Sacrament of Baptism does not exist. For what is water without the cross of Christ? A common element, without any sacramental effect. Nor, again, is there the Sacrament of Regeneration without water: “For except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Now, even the catechumen believes in the cross of the Lord Jesus, wherewith he too is signed; but unless he be baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, he cannot receive remission of sins nor gain the gift of spiritual grace. (On the Mysteries Chap. 4.20)
Each individual commander designates such ensigns and gives orders that they be followed… But one who is a loyal soldier follows his own ensigns and does not recognize those of a stranger. Let us consider with some care and attention what thèse strange ensigns are. Christ has set His sign on the forehead of each one; the Antichrist sets his sign there also, that he may recognize his own…The devil and his servants set up their ensigns, but I did not know them because I was not a party to their deceits and I did not agree to their dominion. (The Prayer of Job and David 7.26-7.27. Ambrose: Seven Exegetical Works, trans. Michael P. McHugh, Fathers of the Church séries, vol. 65 {Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1975}, 409-410)
 
Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420
 
I cull these few flowers in passing from the fair field of the Holy Scriptures. They will suffice to warn you that you must shut the door of your breast and fortify your brow by often making the sign of the cross. Thus alone will the destroyer of Egypt find no place to attack you; thus alone will the first-born of your soul escape the fate of the first-born of the Egyptians; thus alone will you be able with the prophet to say: my heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise. Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp. For, sin stricken as she is, even Tyre is bidden to take up her harp Isaiah 23:15-16 and to do penance; like Peter she is told to wash away the stains of her former foulness with bitter tears. (Letter 130.9)
 
St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407
 
Let no man therefore be ashamed of the honored symbols of our salvation, and of the chiefest of all good things, whereby we even live, and whereby we are; but as a crown, so let us bear about the cross of Christ. Yea, for by it all things are wrought, that are wrought among us. Whether one is to be new-born, the cross is there; or to be nourished with that mystical food, or to be ordained, or to do anything else, everywhere our symbol of victory is present. Therefore both on house, and walls, and windows, and upon our forehead, and upon our mind, we inscribe it with much care.
For of the salvation wrought for us, and of our common freedom, and of the goodness of our Lord, this is the sign. For as a sheep was He led to the slaughter. Isaiah 53:7 When therefore you sign yourself, think of the purpose of the cross, and quench anger, and all the other passions. When you sign yourself, fill your forehead with all courage, make your soul free. And ye know assuredly what are the things that give freedom. Wherefore also Paul leading us there, I mean unto the freedom that beseems us, did on this wise lead us unto it, having reminded us of the cross and blood of our Lord. For you are bought, says he, with a price; be not ye the servants of men. Consider, says he, the price that has been paid for you, and you will be a slave to no man; by the price meaning the cross.
Since not merely by the fingers ought one to engrave it, but before this by the purpose of the heart with much faith. And if in this way you have marked it on your face, none of the unclean spirits will be able to stand near you, seeing the blade whereby he received his wound, seeing the sword which gave him his mortal stroke. For if we, on seeing the places in which the criminals are beheaded, shudder; think what the devil must endure, seeing the weapon, whereby Christ put an end to all his power, and cut off the head of the dragon.
Be not ashamed then of so great a blessing, lest Christ be ashamed of you, when He comes with His glory, and the sign appears before Him, shining beyond the very sunbeam. For indeed the cross comes then, uttering a voice by its appearance, and pleading with the whole world for our Lord, and signifying that no part has failed of what pertained to Him.
This sign, both in the days of our forefathers and now, has opened doors that were shut up; this has quenched poisonous drugs; this has taken away the power of hemlock; this has healed bites of venomous beasts. For if it opened the gates of hell, and threw wide the archways of Heaven, and made a new entrance into Paradise, and cut away the nerves of the devil; what marvel, if it prevailed over poisonous drugs, and venomous beasts, and all other such things. (On Matthew, Homily 54.7)
 
Are you one of the faithful? Sign the Cross; say, ‘This I have for my only weapon; this for my remedy; and other I know none’. (Homilies on Colossians 8)
 
Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430
 
Why do sign yourself with the cross? If you don’t act the cross, you don’t in fact sign yourself with it. Recognize Christ crucified, recognize Him suffering, recognize Him praying for His enemies, recognize Him loving those at whose hands He endured such things and longed to cure them. If you do not recognize Him repent, and if ever you entertained bad wishes see to it that you have good ones from now on. (Sermons: Newly Discovered Sermons. John E. Rotelle, Edmund Hill)
 
St. John Cassian ca. 360-435
 
Why also need I mention the acts of Abbot Abraham the simple, from the simplicity of his life and his innocence. This man when he had gone from the desert to Egypt for the harvest in the season of Quinquagesima was pestered with tears and prayers by a woman who brought her little child, already pining away and half dead from lack of milk; he gave her a cup of water to drink signed with the sign of the cross; and when she had drunk it at once most marvellously her breasts that had been till then utterly dry flowed with a copious abundance of milk. (Conference 15.4)
 
St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444
 
Isa 19:19
In that day there shall be an altar to the Lord in the land of the Egyptians, and a pillar to the Lord by its border.
 
He, in this place, calls the sign of the holy cross, with which it is the custom of believers to be fenced round, a pillar. For this we have ever used ; overthrowing every assault of the devil, and repelling the attacks of evil spirits. For an impregnable wall is the cross unto us, and our glorying in it is truly salutary. God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Christ. (Gal. 6:14)(Comm. in. Isa. Bk. 2)
 
Pope St. Leo ca. 400-461
 
To deny the true flesh of Christ, to subject the very essence of the Word to suffering and death, to make our nature different from His who repaired it, and to reckon all that the cross uplifted, that the spear pierced, that the stone on the tomb received and gave back, to be only the work of Divine power, and not also of human humility? It is in reference to this humility that the Apostle says, For I do not blush for the Gospel Romans 1:16, inasmuch as he knew what a slur was cast upon Christians by their enemies. And, therefore, the Lord also made proclamation, saying: he that shall confess Me before men him will I also confess before My Father Matthew 10:32 . For these will not be worthy of the Son and the Father’s acknowledgment in whom the flesh of Christ awakens no respect: and they will prove themselves to have gained no virtue from the sign of the cross who blush to avow with their lips what they have consented to bear upon their brows. (Letter 124.9)
 
St. Dionysius the Aeropagite ca. 5th cent.
 
The sign of the cross indicates the renunciation of all the desires of the flesh. It points to a life given over to the imitation of God unswervingly directed toward the divine life of the incarnate Jesus, Who was divinely sinless and yet lowered Himself to the cross and to death and who, with the sign of the cross, that image of His own sinlessness, marks all those imitating Him. (The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy 5.III.4)
 
St. Benedict of Nursia ca. 480-543
 
Having now taken upon him the charge of the Abbey, he took order that regular life should be observed, so that none of them could, as before they used, through unlawful acts decline from the path of holy conversation, either on the one side or on the other: which the monks perceiving, they fell into a great rage, accusing themselves that ever they desired him to be their Abbot, seeing their crooked conditions could not endure his virtuous kind of government: and therefore when they saw that under him they could not live in unlawful sort, and were loath to leave their former conversation, and found it hard to be enforced with old minds to meditate and think upon new things: and because the life of virtuous men is always grievous to those that be of wicked conditions, some of them began to devise, how they might rid him out of the way: and therefore, taking counsel together, they agreed to poison his wine: which being done, and the glass wherein that wine was, according to the custom, offered to the Abbot to bless, he, putting forth his hand, made the sign of the cross, and straightway the glass, that was holden far off, brake in pieces, as though the sign of the cross had been a stone thrown against it: upon which accident the man of God by and by perceived that the glass had in it the drink of death, which could not endure the sign of life: and therefore rising up, with a mild countenance and quiet mind, he called the monks together, and spake thus unto them: “Almighty God have mercy upon you, and forgive you: why have you used me in this manner? Did not I tell you before hand, that our manner of living could never agree together? Go your ways, and seek ye out some other father suitable to your own conditions, for I intend not now to stay any longer amongst you.” When he had thus discharged himself, he returned back to the wilderness which so much he loved, and dwelt alone with himself, in the sight of his Creator, who beholdeth the hearts of all men. (Pope St. Gregory Dialogos, Second Dialogue: Chap. 3)
 
St. Brendan (the Navigator) of Clonfert ca. 484-557
 
As these sounds reached his ears, the venerable father (St. Brendan) made the sign of the victory of the Lord in all four directions and said: “Lord Jesus Christ, deliver us from this island.” (The Voyage of Brendan)
 
St. Andrew of Caesarea ca. 6th cent.
 
Just as it had been revealed to Ezekiel long ago about the one dressed in fine linen who sealed the foreheads of those who groan so that the righteous would not be destroyed together with the unrighteous — because the hidden virtue of the saints is unknown even to angels — this (is) also shown hère to the blessed one (John), the superior holy power urging the punishing holy angels to do nothing to those who committed offenses before the knowledge of those distinguished by the sealing who serve the truth. If this has partially taken place a long time ago, to the ones who had believed in Christ who had escaped the sack of Jerusalem by the Romans reckoned as many tens of thousands, according to James the Great who had shown the blessed Paul their great number. (Acts 21:20) But accordingly it is said, this will definitely happen during the time of Antichrist, the seal of the life-giving Cross separating the faithful from the unfaithful, (the faithful) without shame and having been emboldened bearing the sign of Christ before the impious. Wherefore the angel says, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” (Rev. 7:3) (Commentary on the Apocalypse)
 
St. Columba of Iona ca. 521-597
 
On another occasion also, when the blessed man was living for some days in the province of the Picts, he was obliged to cross the river Nesa (Loch Ness); and when he reached the bank of the river, he saw some of the inhabitants burying an unfortunate man, who, according to the account of those who were burying him, was a short time before seized, as he was swimming, and bitten most severely by a monster that lived in the water; his wretched body was, though too late, taken out with a hook, by those who came to his assistance in a boat. The blessed man, on hearing this, was so far from being dismayed, that he directed one of his companions to swim over and row across the coble that was moored at the farther bank. And Lugne Mocumin hearing the command of the excellent man, obeyed without the least delay, taking off all his clothes, except his tunic, and leaping into the water. But the monster, which, so far from being satiated, was only roused for more prey, was lying at the bottom of the stream, and when it felt the water disturbed above by the man swimming, suddenly rushed out, and, giving an awful roar, darted after him, with its mouth wide open, as the man swam in the middle of the stream. Then the blessed man observing this, raised his holy hand, while all the rest, brethren as well as strangers, were stupefied with terror, and, invoking the name of God, formed the saving sign of the cross in the air, and commanded the ferocious monster, saying, “Thou shalt go no further, nor touch the man; go back with all speed.” Then at the voice of the saint, the monster was terrified, and fled more quickly than if it had been pulled back with ropes, though it had just got so near to Lugne, as he swam, that there was not more than the length of a spear-staff between the man and the beast. Then the brethren seeing that the monster had gone back, and that their comrade Lugne returned to them in the boat safe and sound, were struck with admiration, and gave glory to God in the blessed man. And even the barbarous heathens, who were present, were forced by the greatness of this miracle, which they themselves had seen, to magnify the God of the Christians. (St. Adamnan, The Life of St. Columba: Chap. XXVIII)
 
Pope St. Gregory Dialogos ca. 540-604
 
Floridus, Bishop of Tivoli, a man (as yourself knoweth very well) of holy life, and worthy to be credited, told me that he had dwelling with him a certain Priest called Amantius, of marvellous simplicity: who, like unto the Apostles, had such a grace given him of God, that, laying his hand upon them that were sick, he restored them to their former health; and although the disease were very great and dangerous, yet upon his touching did it forthwith depart. Moreover he said that he had also this miraculous gift, that wheresoever he found any serpents or snakes, though never so cruel, yet did he with the sign of the cross dispatch and kill them: for by virtue of the cross, which the man of God made with his hand, their bowels did break, and they suddenly die: and if by chance the snake gat into any hole, then did he with the sign of the cross bless the mouth thereof, and it wrought the same effect; for any might straightways find it there dead. (The Dialogues Bk. 3.35)
 
St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662
 
The distinctive sign of the power of our Lord Jesus Christ is the Cross that he carried on his shoulders. (Ambiguum 32, PG 91, 1284 C)
 
St. Isaac of Syria died ca. 700
 
When you desire to take your stand in the liturgy of your (night) vigil, with God as your helper do as I tell you. Bend your knees, as is custom, and rise up again, but do not immediately begin your liturgy. After you have made a prayer and completed it, and signed your heart and your limbs with the life-creating sign of the Cross, stand silently for a moment until your senses have been set at rest and your thoughts have become tranquil. Then raise up your inner vision to the Lord and beseech Him with an afflicted soul to fortify your weakness and to grant that the psalmody of your tongue and the reflections of your heart be pleasing to His will… (The Ascetical Homilies, Homily 75)
 
Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735
 
But those also, who still live abroad in the world, demand a portion of your most anxious care, as we forewarned you in the beginning of this epistle; you should furnish them with competent teachers of the word of everlasting life, and among other things instruct them by what works they may render themselves most pleasing to God; from what sins those, who wish to please God, ought to abstain; with what sincerity of heart they ought to believe in God; with what devotion to supplicate the Divine mercy; with what frequent diligence to use the sign of the Lord’s cross, and so to fortify themselves and all they have against the continual snares of unclean spirits; and how salutary it is for all classes of Christians to participate daily in the Body and Blood of our Lord, as you well know is done by Christ’s Church throughout Italy, Gaul, Africa, Greece, and all the countries of the East. (Epistle to Egbert, Bishop of York 15)
 
St. John Damascene ca. 676-749
 
Every action, therefore, and performance of miracles by Christ are most great and divine and marvelous: but the most marvelous of all is His precious Cross. For no other thing has subdued death, expiated the sin of the first parent, despoiled Hades, bestowed the resurrection, granted the power to us of contemning the present and even death itself, prepared the return to our former blessedness, opened the gates of Paradise, given our nature a seat at the right hand of God, and made us the children and heirs of God, save the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. For by the Cross s all things have been made right. So many of us, the apostle says, as were baptized into Christ, were baptized into His death, and as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. Further Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Lo! the death of Christ, that is, the Cross, clothed us with the enhypostatic wisdom and power of God. And the power of God is the Word of the Cross, either because God’s might, that is, the victory over death, has been revealed to us by it, or because, just as the four extremities of the Cross are held fast and bound together by the bolt in the middle, so also by God’s power the height and the depth, the length and the breadth, that is, every creature visible and invisible, is maintained. This was given to us as a sign on our forehead, just as the circumcision was given to Israel: for by it we believers are separated and distinguished from unbelievers. This is the shield and weapon against, and trophy over, the devil. This is the seal that the destroyer may not touch you, as saith the Scripture. This is the resurrection of those lying in death, the support of the standing, the staff of the weak, the rod of the flock, the safe conduct of the earnest, the perfection of those that press forwards, the salvation of soul and body, the aversion of all things evil, the patron of all things good, the taking away of sin, the plant of resurrection, the tree of eternal life. (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, On Faith and Baptism: Book IV, Ch. 9)
 
St. Symeon the New Theologian 949-1022
 
For Christians the Cross is magnification, glory and power: for all our power is in the power of Christ Who was crucified; all our sinfulness is mortified by the death of Christ on the Cross; and all our exaltation and all our glory are in the humiliation of God. Who humbled Himself to such an extent that He was pleased to die even between evil-doers and thieves. For this very reason Christians who believe in Christ sign themselves with the sign of the Cross not simply, not just as it happens, not carelessly, but with all heedfulness, with fear and with trembling and with extreme reverence. (The First-Created Man, Homily One: 4)

The Fools Guide the Church?

Many Protestant Christians who are anxious to escape the dreadfulness of disunity within their churches look forward to latching on to an authority in which they can rely on existentially. They want to know that the doctrinal explosion – if you will – of the Church as it began at Pentecost will be protected from what Protestantism has come to be.

Many of these Christians turn to Rome in order to embrace the Pontiff ‘s anathemas and other dogmatic ascertains. Others turn to Orthodoxy and embrace the Ecumenical councils as the Rome convert embraces the Pontiff. But this is not right of the Orthodox convert says Bishop Hilarion of the Orthodox Church. He says, “Ecumenical councils were never seen as the supreme authority in the Orthodox Church” (Orthodox Christianity, p. 61).

Orthodoxy is not a religious construct where people can place the thrust of their faith in existential values. Yes, the Church does have a corporeal and existential value, but the Church is a mere glimpse of what is really and truly going on in heaven! When one embraces Orthodoxy, they are not embracing what man says or does but what God says and does.

In Roman Catholicism the Pontiff is perceived as the voice of God; granted he as a bishop does represent the voice of God but he is not the entirety of it, in a Trinitarian sense. The Trinity is represented by the entire Church in that we are all a part of the priesthood; Not that we are all able to espouse whatever we want and expect it to manifest as truth but that we are actually able to espouse whatever we want and perhaps make fools of ourselves! The fool actually fuels the Church. That’s right; we are created in such a way that our human nature takes a certain form so as to embrace the Trinity! This is why the early Church arguments within the Councils were so important. They were protecting the way God created man in the very image of the Trinity. So it was important that they got the Trinity right by warding off the heresies surrounding the Trinity!

Since man was created in the image of the Trinity he is expected to become as the Trinity. He is expected to progress in such a way as to leave what he has learned from secular culture and to take up what he has learned from God’s Holy Church. This growth in the people of God after the image of the Trinity is crucial to the sustainability and authority of the Church.

The Orthodox Church, according to basic existential principals should not still exist, but she continues to exist. She has survived some of the most terrible onslaughts in world history and she still continues to grow.

The Orthodox Church is guided by the people as they embrace the Trinity. There is no need for one man or even a council of men to proclaim that we are in a sense still here and have the Christians submit to such a proclamation. Orthodox unity and sustainability happens “naturally” through the Holy Spirit. The unity of the Church is not proclaimed on paper for people to submit to, it is demonstrated through praxis, to be of “one mind and spirit” as Saint Paul says. The Councils of the Church with the bishopric are for correction and encouragement. They are not for replacing the people; they are the voice of the people.

The fool, in many ways, guides the Church. Believe it or not, it is important to have fools in the Church. Christ states in Matthew 13 that the Church is made up of both wheat and tares. And Saint Paul the Apostle says in 1 Cor. 25-30, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.”

The fools spur the Church on to glory. The fools enter the Church and they begin to mouth off in embarrassment but they grow and suddenly their foolishness becomes the very light of the Trinity; man “becoming” God. The fools both grow the Church, causing her to study and discuss, and even gather in Councils, and the fools themselves begin to grow and change, showing that God is the author of what is good.